Bill to shield personal information of homeless individuals headed to House floor

stimulus homeless
The bill seeks to ensure that human service workers have no fear of exposing private, individual data as they count the homeless population.

A bill that would keep homeless individuals’ data from becoming a public record received its third committee nod Thursday, which will send it to the full House for a vote.

Republican Rep. Fiona McFarland of Sarasota filed the bill (HB 699) so that workers who collect homeless information for a federal database don’t have to worry about creating a public record that might expose personal information, she said. Also, people who experience homelessness won’t have to worry that their past might come back to haunt them.

The House Health & Human Services Committee Thursday signed off on the bill. Sen. Joe Gruters has proposed similar legislation (SB 934). It has received approval from the full Senate with just one vote against it.

The bill passed unanimously in Thursday’s committee hearing without any objections or debate. McFarland did explain, however, that a person’s name, Social Security number, veteran status and other personal information is collected even if they stay in a shelter for just one night.

“This is consistent with the intent of the federal database,” she said of the exemption.

In earlier committee testimony, McFarland said the unique circumstances of the last two years that upended many lives made this the time to pass this law.

“So many people have experienced housing insecurity coming out of COVID,” McFarland said. “The last thing we would want to do is take any of that information and have it negatively affect them as they apply for jobs or get their lives back on track.”

McFarland said people who tally the homeless census that is reported to the federal government are leaving people out of the census because being counted could expose their information, she said. 

“They don’t use the (federal information system) because of fear of triggering a public record,” McFarland said.

Yet, an accurate count is important because it is used to make decisions about allocating resources, she said.

The bill’s final passage will require a two-thirds vote of approval from the full House because it creates a new exemption to the state’s broad Sunshine Law, according to an analysis.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected]


  • politics

    February 17, 2022 at 10:59 am

    numbers are for tax codes they should all apply a new number strategy because shelters could be crime collection.This will never shield anyone from tenant check public records family and children’s could help with a id

  • politics

    February 17, 2022 at 11:11 am

    America is not shield they anymore they sold and past your sht all over the world

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, Wes Wolfe, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn